Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that this year "as soon as possible" to search for natural gas in an area agreed with Libya. That will happen if the licenses for it are granted, said Erdoğan in a speech in Ankara. In a first step, the Turkish exploration ship "Oruç Reis" will start looking for natural gas. The project also affects potentially gas-rich regions south of Crete, which, according to Greece, belong to the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Athens had warned that it would use all possible means to defend itself against such steps – after Ankara signed an agreement with Libya in November 2019 on maritime borders in the Mediterranean, so that the Turkey get a "fair share" of the resources in the waters, as the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at the time. The Turkish reading is that the island of Crete, for example, has territorial waters, but no continental shelf, and therefore no exclusive economic zone.
Erdoğan said again on January 16 that without the consent of Libya and Turkey, it would no longer be possible to search, drill, or build a pipeline in the waters concerned. He was referring, among other things, to a pipeline project on which Greece, Cyprus and Israel recently agreed.
There is a similar conflict with Cyprus
The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "The legal status of the Aegean and the islands is defined by international treaties and is undisputed." Turkey's claims did nothing to change that.
A similar conflict already exists with Cyprus. Turkish ships for test drilling have been operating there since 2019. The EU countries had therefore created a legal framework for sanctions against Turkey. Ankara rejects the allegation that the drilling is illegal. The seabed affected belongs to their continental shelf, Turkey argues.